The Assam branch of Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Monday said it would be compelled to call for a withdrawal of all doctors from tea gardens in the state from Friday if proper security is not provided.
The ultimatum followed the lynching of Dr Deben Dutta, 73, at Teok garden hospital in Assam’s Jorhat district on Saturday for allegedly delaying the treatment of a worker who later succumbed to head injuries from a fall, at the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital.
Twenty-two persons, arrested by Jorhat police, were produced before the chief judicial magistrate on Tuesday and send to judicial custody. Case No. 434 has been registered at Teok police station under Sections 232, 341, 342, 427, 506, 143, 144, 147, 148, 149 and 186 of the IPC.
In a letter to the Assam Branch Indian Tea Association (Abita), the IMA Assam branch sought a written assurance by Thursday that state-owned or professional security personnel would be deployed in health establishments in all the tea estates of the state within September 10 and their barracks would be set up on the campus of the hospital/dispensary. It also demanded installation of surveillance cameras/CCTVs at the vulnerable points in the health establishments of all tea gardens within September 30. The letter was addressed to Abita as it is the largest tea association in Assam and Teok is its member.
The IMA Assam branch said it had to issue the ultimatum as the situation has crossed all tolerable limits. It reiterated its zero tolerance against any violence against doctors, health workers and health establishments.
The IMA Tinsukia branch had called a 24-hour withdrawal of medical services in the district from 6am on Monday. Only emergency services were plying at Teok garden hospital. An ambulance was stationed there for emergency. Members of Jorhat Doctors Club also went on a strike, demanding justice, amendment of law to ensure doctors’ security and punishment to the guilty. Only emergency services and outdoor department functioned normally.
The IMA Assam branch has called a 24-hour withdrawal of medical services, excluding emergency, on Tuesday.
Inspector-general of police (law and order) Dipak Kedia rushed to the tea estate from Guwahati. Jorhat superintendent of police Vaibab Nimbalkar said investigations are on.
The Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) said the matter had been taken up with the government and will be pursued.
A senior official of Indian Tea Association said, “We strongly condemn such actions and will work with all stakeholders towards enforcing the rule of law.”
Hundreds of doctors took out processions in Tinsukia and Jorhat towns on Monday. Tinsukia doctors submitted a memorandum to SP Shiladitya Chetia and deputy commissioner Oinam Sarankumar Singh.
IMA Tinsukia branch secretary Dr Prasant Kumar Agarwala, who headed the procession, told The Telegraph, “We are anxious about our safety and security. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma are requested to take measures so that doctors can work fearlessly in garden hospitals and other places.”
The Association of Surgeons of India has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to instruct the Assam government on visible and swift delivery of justice.
Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha general secretary Rupesh Gowala condemned the incident. “It was a condemnable act. The government and society will have to work together to stop such acts in future,” he said.
All Assam Tea Tribes Students Association secretary Irot Tanti said, “We express deep grief at the demise of Dr Dutta.”
Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar Ojha in Doomdooma and Devajit Baruah in Jorhat